posted: July 3rd, 2006
So as I sit here, struggling to work out a crafting system that allows people to be ‘hard core’ crafters while still allowing solo crafters and balancing the whole thing against adventuring I run into a new snag; the concept of ‘social whittling‘.
Social whittling is a concept proposed by Scott Jennings. In a nutshell the idea is that sometimes people want simple, mindless, low stress activities, and that crafting fulfills this need. Now I’m not sure I agree with that 100% but in keeping with the ‘something for everyone’ approach that I want to try to hold to I have to consider it. Obviously there are those who look to use crafting to fill such a role and creating a complicated crafting system runs the danger of ‘forcing’ players to do something they find unfun (violating another of my tenets).
Of course the simplest solution, and the one espoused by Scott Jennings, is to have crafting not have any form of mini-game. To attempt a task you simply make sure you have the appropriate materials, click whatever needs to be clicked to start the task, and then wait. After a time you get a message that tells you whether you succeeded or failed.
On one level that seems straight forward enough, but if we balance the time of adventuring against the time of crafting it looks to me to be problematic. Assume for a moment that a solo adventurer will get an item drop roughly once every five minutes. This is probably a bit rapid but it should work for giving us a quick Fermi estimate. That provides a minimum amount of time that a crafter has to spend to make a comparable item. Obviously clicking to start the process and then waiting for five minutes will be incredibly tedious and while it might relax the social whittlers it is sure to bore the more involved crafters to tears. Some of this can be reduced through sub-combines, but it seems unlikely that you can find a number of sub-combines that will keep the dedicated crafters interested without providing too many steps for the social whittlers.
The answer seems to me to be to have two different sorts of crafting activities. I’m still trying to work out terms and metaphors for these activities but for now let’s refer to them as Routine and Experimental.
Routine actions are a sort of work-a-day activity. It is a person smelting ore while wondering what’s for dinner or else pounding out a blade while wondering what the weather will be like tomorrow. It isn’t the action of a master craftsman paying attention to every detail as they push their skills to their limit. It’s the action of a person who’s producing ‘yet another’ sword.
Experimental actions, on the other hand, are where a craftsman is trying something new. It’s a person smelting ore and paying absolute attention to the heat of the fire and the color of the ore or the craftsman who works more carbon into the edge of the blade than is standard to try to make a sharper weapon.
Any step a craftsman would undertake can be either a Routine or Experimental action. Overall the two actions would take close to the same time. Routine actions would have much lower chances of failure but would also produce very average results. Experimental actions on the other hand would have the possibility of producing better results but with an increased chance of failure and would be far more interactive.
This would create a system where you could have social whittlers and dedicated craftsman side by side, but would it work? Would social whittlers feel cheated because their products are typically of lower quality than the dedicated craftsmen? Would dedicated craftsmen feel cheated that social whittling is easier? How prevalent is social whittling, anyway? In a system where crafting is a full blown class would social whittlers make alts so they could craft? Would they find another activity to take the place of social whittling? These are all questions that really need to be answered.